Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Theatre of Dreams written by Jonathan Morris and directed by Lisa Bowerman

What’s it about: “Roll up gentlemen and ladies, roll up! Welcome to Deuteronomy’s Theatre De Fantasie, the show where your dreams come true!”
Henry Gordon Jago believes he has made a killer booking for the New Regency Theatre. Unfortunately, he is absolutely correct…

Theatrical Fellow: Jonathan Morris utilises the wonderful premise of exploring Jago & Litefoot’s dreams and whilst Litefoot’s desires are primarily for the welfare of others, Jago’s are purely, wonderfully self-centred! He thought they deserved some rest and relaxation after their recent ordeal. He delights in his restoration to the thespian trade; he has been put in charge of the Regency Theatre by an unknown benefactor! His greatest desire was to finally gain the attention of Her Majesty and have her in his audience; Madame Deuteronomy gets his dreams bang on the nail. He has been a trifle occupied of late, ignoring all of Litefoot’s communications and rejected all invites, he hasn’t spoken to his friend for almost a month! Litefoot mentions, not unkindly, that it isn’t the first time Jago has hired a fiendish theatre act. Not like him to be so lacking in curiosity. Creeping about in the dark, investigating infernal intrigues – it’s just like old times! Jago is a man of determination and character! Jago bluffs that they saw through their infernal illusion and that they are powerless against his rationale of reason and rationalisation!

Posh Professor: He has always found funfairs highly stimulating! Litefoot sounds extremely doubtful that Jago was approached to run the Regency, he’s happy for his friend but suspicious of the circumstances. Jago requires the benefit of his opinion of what would appeal to the cultured gentleman about time. He fears that Ellie only has a few years left. He’s stale and thin, not enough for Ellie to feast on! I love that it is Litefoot who spots the implausibilities of their dreams and nightmares and drags his friend free of them.

Standout Performance: It is wonderful to have Duncan Wisbey back as Dr Sacker who manages to sound quite creepy even whilst we know he is an all. Every line he utters sounds very thoughtful and slightly uneasy. He’s a character to watch.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘If you enjoyed tonight’s show please tell your friends! And if you didn’t…please tell your enemies!’
‘Slumbering somnambulists to the slaughter!’
‘Not Quick enough it seems…’
‘How very British! Even in death we can’t help forming an orderly queue!’
‘Aren’t you dead? Gobbled by a gargoyle?’

Great Ideas: Litefoot is still trying to sate Ellie’s vampiric bloodlust and has tried giving her black pudding! Madame Deuteronomy’s Theatre of Dreams can reveal all your secrets and make your dreams come true – in one example they reveal the all male love of a servant and master. Litefoot overhears two of the Theatre de Fantasie actors replaying a conversation he had with Ellie about her bestial nature. She has sense that Litefoot has cut himself shaving and thinks it would be very easy to give in to her desires. Sacker puts his tea mug down on a map and fortuitously stains the map; a circle completely untainted by the spate of deaths and in the middle of this circle is the Regency Theatre. Jago and Litefoot observe dead bodies being removed from the Theatre de Fantasie and men being hired to cart the cadavers off. Sleepwalkers then march into the machine, under post hypnotic suggestion and all have taken part in Madame Deuteronomy’s show. Suddenly Jago & Litefoot defeat the diabolical theatre troupe and brings with it a rash of good news. The disease that has affected Ellie was in the blood and Litefoot can be filtered away using a wine filtration system – they try and she is cured! Jago is given a permanent position at the Regency! Madame Deuteronomy to be put on trial! Jago rich! Her Majesty gagging for a front row seat! Their greatest wishes are coming true and time skips forward to give them one marvellous piece of news of news after another. They realise the tavern is nothing but scenery and painted backdrops and the clientele are wooden cut outs – how fantastic would all this look on screen? Jago & Litefoot are trapped inside their own fantasies and actors are playing Ellie and Quick. The theatre is a living creature that requires sustenance and the metropolis of London is ripe for the feasting! Gargoyles come to life and murder Quick! Understanding how this all works now we can see this is another illusion and it is played to the hilt, this time our heroes’ nightmares. Corpses are piling up! Ellie’s vampiric fate is sealed and begs Litefoot to kill her! She dashes out into the night to feed! Sacker turned demonic! The street full of sleepwalkers! Brilliantly Jago realises that they need to escape through the fourth wall, to shatter the illusion, puncture the willing suspension of disbelief and break the theatrical spell! They undermine the fiction by addressing the audience. Madame Deuteronomy and her band were nothing but fictional creations themselves, wooden cutouts. The theatre folds in on itself, the illusion was holding it all together. Jago gets some great news when they escape this adventure…he is now the manager of the Regency and Litefoot has finally made a breakthrough with Ellie…we are left pondering if this is another fantasy…

Audio Landscape: Lisa Bowerman comes from a theatre background and she brings this to life with real showbiz flair, first giving us a joyful fairground atmosphere, the stage coming to life and managing to make the last half of the story illusory and plausible. Applause, organ, Punch and Judy, birdsong, crunching on a toffee apple and roasted chestnuts, accordion music, pouring a drink, counting coins, horse and cart, brandy added to tea, police whistle, bubbling blood, laughter, cackling gargoyles, gunshots, wind and ghouls.

Musical Cues: I love all the fairground music, its very gay and cheerful! As Jago & Litefoot start to question the nature of their good look a dark theme begins to creep in almost insidiously.

Standout Scene: The last 20 minutes of Theatre of Dreams is one entire standout scene, one brilliant twist after another which continually makes you question what is reality…

Result: Innovative and unpredictable, Theatre of Dreams is a surreal and inventive piece of character drama that kept me guessing until the last scene. Its brilliant to be able to explore Jago & Litefoot’s dreams and nightmares because it allows us to get even closer to the characters. Jonathan Morris deconstructs the reality of theatre and makes insightful observations on the nature of dreams. It’s the standout story of this consistently excellent season and the best the series has been since The Bellova Doll. Expertly put together by Lisa Bowerman who keeps things gripping and unreliable whilst guiding us to the truth with some judicious editing. Subversive storytelling at its best, Theatre of Dreams is packed with great imagery and is one of the most audacious audio productions Big Finish have released: 10/10

Buy the second season box set from Big Finish here: http://www.bigfinish.com/Jago-and-Litefoot

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